It was a narrow cave connected underground. The spirits of grass earnestly flapped their short little wings, flying close to the cave entrance where they stopped for a moment.
ㅡIt, it’s here. The dragon is here.
ㅡIt, it looks like its hurt badly. I can feel it trembling.
ㅡTh-, the spirits of darkness are gathering.
Spirits were everywhere. Normally, the type of spirits gathering depended on the place, but there were also spirits that lived a parasitic existence, feeding off emotions. Like spirits of darkness, for example. They swarmed around dark emotions which were nutrients to them. It’s said that powerful spirits of darkness could even mislead victims into making extreme decisions. That’s why Spirit Callers who dealt with spirits of darkness were avoided like the plague.
They were visible to my eyes also.
There was a legion of them. I didn’t need to even look inside, seeing as how even the entrance was packed, to tell just how many spirits of darkness there were. Even common sense dictated this was insane. There did exist dragons that could command spirits of darkness; dark dragons. The dragon which Carpediem had snatched away possessed an extreme, destructive disposition, and ruled the darkness. But beside that there were no dragon that could summon spirits of darkness, barring the spirits that matched their own respective elements.
As I began stepping forward, the spirits of darkness proved to be no different to the other spirits; scurrying out of my way.
ㅡAn unusual human.
ㅡA human truly? He gives off a good smell.
ㅡBut I feel like I’ll be swallowed up if I go near.
Apparently spirits of darkness were no exception to my nonexistent affinity with spirits. It was likely that even the spirits who were speaking were unaware of the fact, though there were some words of concern among what they said. It was what I had confirmed the other day through Syria’s spirits of light.
Tremble tremble tremble!
The three spirits of grass following behind my back as they trembled. They didn’t have to go so far as to follow me in, but it looked like they were trying to keep their promise since they had said they would guide me up to the dragon.
ㅡAm, am I, tre-, trembling, right now?
ㅡI-, I’ve never seen, s-, so many, spi-, spirits of darkness.
Even the spirits thought this phenomenon strange. I hardened my expression. The bad feeling in my chest grew worse the closer I drew near them. I had formed a ‘bond’ with the two, Igneel and Etaqua. We shared our emotions, that’s why we could understand one another like no one else could. Pain. Desolation. Fear. The emotions which he had never learnt during the time in the abyss. That’s why his heart was in turmoil, feeling sorrow.
I further hastened my footsteps, and…found him. At the end of the cave, there lay a dragon curled up into a ball!
I very slowly called out his name. But Etaqua remained curled up, staring at me with wary eyes.
It appeared my voice didn’t reach him. His emotions were in severe chaos. He showed none of his playful and energetic appearance.
‘He’s been affected by the preta’s poison.’
I could be certain of it just by the smell. Because I knew well of its horrors, the preta’s poison. A preta’s poison caused the entire body to rot. It caused rot and pus, and the agony of it was greater than jumping into a sea of fire. A normal human would experience tremendous pain and die within moments, begging for their lives to end even as they perished.
Unless the poison of a preta was removed in the early stages, there would be no hope of recovery. There was no antidote for it, because the characteristics of the poison would continuously change from within the body and, with the exception of using a high level detoxifying type skill, nothing could be done about it. Moreover…there was a bite wound on Etaqua’s flank. There was already a black hue surrounding the wound. The rate at which the poison was spreading must have been very slow due to a dragon’s strong physique.
“You’ve grown much since I’ve last seen you.”
I took a single step forward. Etaqua was already threatening to overtake me in size. I thought that his speed of growth exceeded even bean sprouts, but this level of growth was incomparable to ordinary dragons. Perhaps that was why, but I had been negligent. I had rushed to cast him onto this mountain, thinking that regardless of his young age, Etaqua was still part of the dragon race, and an individual that put even other dragons to shame at that. It was a mistake, resulting from my selfishness.
Etaqua spread his wings, which reached up to the ceiling. To make matters worse, the narrow cave shook.
「Do you intend suicide?」
The snake moved. Jörmungandr had spoken to me. I didn’t reply, and Jörmungandr showed no inclination of stopping me either. She was a dragon that had once coiled around the world. She was not one to go out of her way and save me out of benevolence, just because of her interest in me. Icarus had burned to death as he challenged the sun, him being the first human to have caught Jörmungandr’s interest notwithstanding. If she had wanted to save him at all, Icarus wouldn’t have burned to death in mythology.
Etaqua only grew warier as I approached further. His eyes resembled that of a wounded ferocious beast. Even a huntsman should beware of lightly provoking a wounded beast. But I did not stop. I could not stop. It was all my fault, mine alone, that this situation came about. I slowly opened both my hands.
Etaqua’s snapped his jaws onto my neck immediately when I closed the distance between us. The fangs of a dragon were unmatched in sharpness and toughness. Blood splurted out, and my consciousness flickered for a moment. I could keenly feel the teeth piercing my flesh. But I did not despair. Etaqua should have been capable of tearing my neck off in one go with his teeth and jaw strength, and yet…
I embraced Etaqua, and petted his neck. His scales were cold, yet also warm. He must have suffered much, felt forlorn that I didn’t come despite his waiting, because I was no different than a parent to the both of them, Igneel and Etaqua.
I had never truly been a parent before. I didn’t even marry, so there was no child in my household either. I had considered it as a burden, that it was unnecessary for me, who didn’t know when I would die. Moreover, Igneel and Etaqua were entirely different species to me. That’s why I must have taken this relationship lightly. I had simply passed off the ‘trust’ the two felt towards me, whenever they saw me, as merely the power of the Dominator skill.
“I am sorry…”
I could feel Etaqua’s emotions. Or perhaps it may have been my own. Tears began running down my eyes, and I remained still, embracing Etaqua…and then the surrounding spirits of darkness, one after another, began to retreat.
Etaqua slowly released his jaws from my neck, and then looked into my eyes. The turmoil in his gaze was replaced by embarrassment. He had recognized me; my soul.
He licked at the bite wound he made. His fear was completely gone. The mana of a dragon came flowing into me, and the wound on my neck slowly began healing. It was the mana that was being used until now to prevent the preta’s poison from spreading. If he were to pour it into me then the poison would spread in an instant, killing him. I took a step back, and shook my head.
“Jörmungandr. I need your help.”
「Hmph, my power only applies to you. And why should I suck out the trivial poison of a dragon?」
“Is that so?”
I put my lips against Etaqua’s wound, and began to suck out his blood, together with the preta’s poison. My blood quickly turned blue. When a preta’s poison enters the body, it would immediately cause the blood to congeal, and the body would be paralyzed as it began to rot. On my skin, bubbles began to swell prominently.
Jörmungandr shouted confusedly, because the notion of sacrificing self for another was foreign to her. But I did not stop.
「Stop. Any more than that and even I will have no way of helping!」
Protecting me from the curses of the night was in her terms of contract. A powerful curse lay within the poison of a preta. If I were to die by the poison, she would fail to fulfil the contract. When I continued on despite her warning, Jörmungandr spoke.
「Do you mean to humiliate me? There will be no second time. If ever an incident like this repeats then I will swallow you up myself!」
It was a first seeing Jörmungandr this furious. I chuckled before stopping my actions, and then the silver snake that was on top of my shoulder began to get busy. After sucking out all the poison in my body, as if dissatisfied, she slithered up Etaqua’s flank near his wound. Seeing this, my eyes grew cold to freezing point.
‘I should…kill it. In the cruelest manner conceivable.’
Preta. I hadn’t a clue as to why it left its own level to come down to this place, but I had no plans of leaving it alive.
After the preta’s poison was completely cured, Etaqua spun around me in circles, licking my face. It was a sign of joy and expression of trust. Aware of that fact, I let Etaqua do as he liked. Instead I opened Mind’s Eye, to see what changes there were until now.
Name: Etaqua (Value – 230,900)
Race: White Dragon
🌑 Cry of the Storm (Lv9, Agi+15)
Special Note: Has inherited the Blessing of the Sage, and Cry of the Storm. Has formed a powerful bond of trust with the user.
It’s said that dragons would grow stronger even if they did nothing but breathe, because the standard specs possessed by a dragon was akin to an ‘insurmountable wall’. Given that, his rate of growth was astounding. He had already surpassed me in physical stats.
‘Is this the growth potential of an SS evaluation?’
‘My god’, I muttered to myself unknowingly. The change in stats, according to their respective growth potential grade, was a cause for wonder. What’s more…a title. Cry of the Storm was equipped. It wasn’t there while he was in the abyss, so it must have been unlocked as he grew.
‘A level 9 title of all things.’
The so-called power of sages must definitely be powerful indeed. I couldn’t even begin to guess at what kind of being Walpurgis, mother of wisdom and counsel, must be. A level 9 title! Even Laila Diablo herself barely had a single title of that level. Uriel Diablo as well, excluding ‘Demon Lord(Lv10)’, was the same, so no more needed to be said about how significant it was.
Agility influenced instant reaction speed and extreme senses. Agility was named as the 6th sense, and a whopping 15 was increased. If he were to continue developing, crossing the threshold of agility, then he would be able to exhibit an ability worthy of being deemed as supersensory. This was also one of the factors in raising Etaqua’s growth potential.
“Etaqua. I’m going to go kill the one who wounded you. Are you afraid?”
He bared his teeth and flapped his wings upon hearing my question. Etaqua appeared to desire revenge as well. But it wasn’t only to avenge himself. The shadow kaim…it had saved Etaqua and was eaten by the preta. He felt uncontrollable hatred as a result, but that didn’t summon the spirits of darkness; proof that he was firm of heart. I nodded my head.
‘The opponent is the preta.’
If it were a big preta, the 25th level would have been razed to the ground. It should be a small preta. But even so, I couldn’t be sure of victory with my current fighting power. If I wanted even a slightly easier time killing it, I would need a type of poison that would cause decay, or a weapon imbued with holy power. I had nothing of the sort at present, however, it wasn’t as if I didn’t have a way to do it as well.
ㅡWaah, it’s so sad what happened.
ㅡThe dragon looks happy!
The spirits of grass gazed at Etaqua and made a show of crying. I spoke toward those spirits.
“You lot, will have to contract with me.”
There were countless spirits, and yet these three were the only ones to have approached me close. Even the spirits of darkness avoided me, but unlike the other spirits, these three followed me until the end. Come to think of it…this was anything but an ordinary occurrence.
Double release:) click next chap!